Can a ketogenic diet prevent migraines? A few studies and anecdotes say yes but there is no guarantee
The auras, debilitating pain, nausea, and sensitivity to noise and light means that Migraine warriors will do almost anything to ward off an attack. A specialized diet has created a buzz, leaving many of us who are desperate for relief to ask: can a ketogenic diet prevent migraines? Several recent studies exploring the potential of a ketogenic diet show anecdotal promise of less-frequent attacks, but they aren’t yet conclusive.
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
Sometimes referred to as “Atkins Light” or “The Bacon Diet,” a ketogenic diet is a diet that is low carbohydrate, moderate protein, and high fat. Typical macronutrients for someone on a ketogenic diet is 5% carbs, 25% protein, and 75% fat (yes, you read that right), with the actual amount of grams and calories consumed dependent on the individual’s needs.
As Laura West, Migraine warrior and author of the blog @MigraineKetoTherapy explains “it seemed very simple: eat a lot of fat, moderate protein, and as few carbs as possible.
The fact is, it really is that simple. Follow these basic principles and sooner or later you will find yourself in a state of ketosis, in which you are fueling your body primarily with fat instead of carbohydrates. Burning fat for fuel produces ketone bodies that help prevent the build-up of glutamate in the brain that wreaks havoc on the brains of many of us migraine sufferers.”
Can a ketogenic diet help migraines? One doctor is convinced it can: “We’ve only just begun to see glimpses of the therapeutic potential of ketogenic diets beyond the treatment of epilepsy, including cancer, neurodegenerative disorders (Alzheimers, Parkinsons, etc.), obesity, and migraine” predicts Dr. Josh Turknett, neurologist and author of The Migraine Miracle.
Proven Medical Success for Epilepsy
For years now, doctors have been prescribing a ketogenic diet to patients who suffer from epilepsy, as it has been shown to lessen the frequency and severity of epileptic seizures. Though epilepsy and migraines are separate medical issues, they are both neurological brain disorders with attacks, often responding to similar classes of medications.
Don’t miss Angel Moreno, NP discuss the keto diet for Migraine on the Migraine World Summit – Watch here
People with Migraine may also benefit from using a ketogenic diet to reduce their attacks, although it is important to check with your doctor who can monitor and assess the continued use of any medications you have been prescribed.
On a ketogenic diet, it is important that you monitor your electrolyte intake, as your body will flush out excess water and electrolytes when it uses up its glycogen stores.
Consuming adequate amounts of sodium, potassium, and magnesium will keep you from feeling tired, having achy muscles, and suffering from additional headaches. Proper magnesium intake can help avoid migraines.
Luckily, many ketogenic foods, such as avocados, spinach, kale, and almonds are all high in magnesium, although some migraine patients find nuts and avocados to be migraine triggers.
Since many migraines are aggravated by food triggers, it’s beneficial to get back to basics with your diet. Healthful keto consists of natural proteins, such as cuts of chicken, fish, beef, or pork, with an emphasis on fresh, leafy green vegetables. Fat will make up a large portion of your calories, so it’s important to eat healthful, natural fats, like avocado, extra virgin olive oil, or coconut oil.
Don’t worry about having to eat bland or boring meals; a variety of spices will keep your taste buds happy, while also helping alleviate migraine symptoms. Fresh ginger will also liven up any dish while also acting as a migraine-vanquishing superhero.
Avoiding Blood Sugar Spikes
Reactive hypoglycemia, the sudden surge of insulin levels after you eat a meal high in carbohydrates, is one of the least known food-related triggers for migraine attacks. If you’re eating high-carb, sugar-laden foods, your body’s insulin levels will continually be spiking and dipping, and your head will pay the price.
In our report, Can High-Glycemic Foods Increase Your Migraines? you’ll discover how sugar and other high-glycemic foods are detrimental to your health, so it’s time to kick the habit. A ketogenic diet is the perfect way to decrease the amount of sugar and high-glycemic foods in your diet.
Dr. David Ludwig, M.D., PhD., is a professor of Nutrition at Harvard and also a director of an obesity prevention center at Boston Children’s Hospital, and he advises “The fastest way to stabilize blood glucose and lower insulin levels is to reduce carbohydrates. For many people, these low carbohydrate diets have produced tangible benefits, for sound scientific reasons.”
When you eliminate starchy foods, like potatoes, breads, and sugars, you’ll conquer your cravings and begin to view food as fuel for your body rather than a reward or treat.
The Weight Loss Part Works
Kerrie Smyres, author of the popular blog @TheDailyHeadache, and shares her personal trial with a ketogenic diet. “Managing a ketogenic diet for migraine feels like trying to contain a series of wildfires” Kerrie posted on March 28, 2016. “As soon as I think one fire is under control, another part of the forest goes up in flames … But I keep hoping that after some of the fires are under control, I will feel better enough that the improvements are worth the risk.”
Her story underscores that, while keto can be very effective for dropping extra pounds, weight loss isn’t always desirable and the diet can have some side effects.
Can a ketogenic diet prevent migraines? There is no guarantee. But following a ketogenic diet could potentially reduce the frequency and severity of the attacks. At a minimum, it may help you lose weight, which is a key risk factor in the progression of episodic to chronic migraine. Each case is different.
If you feel a migraine coming on, mentally review your diet over the past few days. Have you allowed your carb intake to creep up and knock you out of ketosis? Are you keeping up with the essential electrolytes? Though a ketogenic diet can be difficult to adhere to at times and the diet will not work for everyone, it may be the answer for you.
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This content was originally published here.